Middle-earth time is:
Nighttime on Highday, Day 10 of December.
Real time is: 12:11:47 MDT on Wed Aug 13 2003.

Center of Camp
Activity is on the rise within the Easterling Ordu for there is naught a stretch of land without an occupant rushing past. The sights and sounds fill the air enriching the sense of communal spirit as fire circles with the lingering scents of roasting meat and spices are scattered to welcome those who seek food, ale, and company. Patrols routinely make inspections while guards stand on duty at the entrance, all armed. Set to the side are the practice areas with straw targets and sparring circles for soldiers to commence training exercises. To the distance, lanes of yurts along with supply and merchant wagons are to be seen as the sounds of merchants hawking their wares are heard. Various Easterlings of all tribes and positions add to the colorful display; dulled hues of uniforms for soldiers, bright hues of garments for merchants, dirty hues of rags for slaves.
(arrives later)
Naiara (arrives later)

=========================== Rhun Time and Weather ============================
Current time: Midnight on Highday, December 10 of 3029
Weather forecast: Extreme Cold and High Winds on this Winter day
Real life time: Wed Aug 13 12:16:57 2003 MDT

The soft sound of the caw of a Raven is heard, and then seen. The Raven is sitting on something, well, someone. That someone is Meneasha, the Bird Merchant. The Raven sits perched on his left forearm, or to be more percise, on the strap of leather on his left forearm. His path takes him towards the fire, yet he seems more concerned with the Raven at the moment.

Albolar swings her scimitar out of the way and sits on one of the logs scattered around the fire. She is lost in thought as she rubs the cold stiffness from her legs. Her demeanor that of someone who feels the weight of a great burden. She sighs audibly and picks up a stick to idly poke at the embers of the fire and then looks up startled to see a form materialize out of the dark carrying a bird - no a raven on his arm.

High winds begin to blow across the camp on this figid winter night. The camp fires lit all around whip into the air dancing in the wind. Hot embers blow all around the camp, moving so fast that some nearly start new fires as they strike the dry leather covers of the yurts around them. Easterling night watchmen are scattered across the camp, some of whom stare nervously at the travelling embers, others putting fires that are close to their own yurts out, choosing to patrol in darkness.

Stepping out of his yurt, Bor looks around the camp with his eyes half shut. Yawning and stretching, his gaze lingers westards towards the city. Walking slowly in the direction of the city, he says "I'll give them one thing, stone buildings don't sound like a drum during high winds..."

The Raven caws soflty again, and Meneasha turns his gaze so as to see where he is going, well, so he can sit beside the fire himself. As he sits, the Raven flutters off his forearm, and lands on the log beside him. The Merchant adjusts his clothing sligthly, so as they will be more comfortable.

The biting cold, whips the hair around his face, the strands of his greying ponytail lashing out at the flesh of his neck and face. Walking through the camp, Amarsanaa seems quite determined as he seems to be looking for something, or..someone. Spying a familiar figure by a crackling fire, he slowly makes his way towards the Arban, the cold not being on the best terms with his joints. Walking up behind the Arban, he peers down at the woman, "Evening Arban, I was wonderng if I could have a few words with you."

Frigid wind whips across the plains, carrying with it all the sounds of the busy camp, the crackling fires, clanging weapons, shouting merchants... and something else. A rattling of horse hooves on the road leading West. The horse approaches, quickly, as the sound of iron-shod hooved grows louder. The wind seems to grow even colder, it reaches out with a grip of icy fingers, and each touch leaves a lingering chill.

Furrowing his brows as he closes his cloak tighter around himself, Bor finds himself shivering. To remedy this his quickens his pace towards the city, but the sounds of the single horse approaching the camp makes him stop by a camp fire, waiting for it to reveal itself.

Her gaze at the stranger with the bird is interrupted by the arrival of a familiar figure, that of the Speaker Amarsanaa, and Albolar half-rises from her seat and then settles back indicating a place beside her with her hand, "It is foully cold this night Speaker,"she says with a faint smile, "and at the moment I have now wish to go to my own yurt and light my own fire. She suddenly shivers and tenses within her cloak as her ears pick up the beat of a fast moving horse.

Hearing the voices, and the sound of the horse, the Merchant Meneasha looks up, the Raven cawing softly again, which prompts Meneasha to stroke the bird's beak lightly with one finger.

With the rattling of hooves coming even louder, the horse should be visible on the last straight stretch of the road leading into the camp. But nothing is revealed to the eye, only the darkness of the night falls like a curtain just outside the camp. The sound of iron on the hard road rings and echoes, almost painfully. Something approaches along the road, even darker than the night itself, it blots out even the faintest light which the night would allow, leaving only a black void.

"Yes..it is." His voice having traces of a hallowness, Amarsanna flicks a curious glance to the lad with his bird. "I was wondering if the military had any means by which I could send a message over the land?" Closing his eyes for the briefest moment, they open slowly as they turn towards the approaching horse, the steely grey eyes searching the dark.

Stretching out his hands to the fire before him and not gaining much heat from it as the wind blows it all away, Bor tucks his arms back into his cloak and begins walking towards Albolar, and those around her, intently listening for sounds in the wind as he walks.

The guards on the outskirts of the camp scatter and clutch their heads, trying to block the sound ringing in their ears. Their fire sends up a shower of sparks, flames sputter, then roar up, and in their flickering light the rider is revealed. Darker than night itself, on a black horse with rippling muscles and foaming mouth, he is only shades of black, and even when the glow of fires reflects on the glistening skin of the horse, it shines like a raven's wing. The cloak whips in the cold wind behing the rider, and shadows tear off from its hem and fade into the night.

The figure on horseback is an ominous one and Albolar rises from her seat as her horse moves restively close by, she moves to it and places a calming hand on the animal's neck. "I'm sure I can arrange something for you," she calls back to the priest in a worried voice as the darkness seems to become more intense the closer the figure gets to her position. And Jukarit's mood is not improved by the unmistakable figure of Bor bearing down her. She soberly salutes, bringing her arm across her chest, "It seems we have a visitor Mingghan."

Listening to the sounds, Meneasha lowers his head, to the Raven, checking its wings, which gives cause to the Raven to caw again. One eye glances up to watch the others, watching them. The Raven caws softly again, fluttering in place as the rider comes closer.

Ignoring the salute, Bor quickly reaches for the weapon strapped to his back. Grabbing onto it, and noticing the behavior of the guards on the outskirts of camp, he quickly lets go, his eyes darting left and right around the camp before saying "It looks like Mordor is paying us a visit." Just then, the flames reveal the rider, and confirming his suspicions, Bor lets go of his weapon, his face pales, and his breath quickens.

The look on her superior's face is enough to make Albolar turn to look more closely at the figure and her breath catches in her throat as she stumbles blindly backwards from the terror that lie before her. The black dread sweeps over her body seeming to weight it to the ground. Her overwhelming fear now freezes her to the spot, as Bor blanches beside her.

The black rider gallops through the camp, almost without slowing down. A dog runs into the road to bark at the approaching horse, then suddenly yelps and halts, its every limb frozen by terror. It starts a sad monotonous wail, and the sound continues until the black wave washes over it. The dark horse passes and rides on, until the rider halts its gallop in the clearing in the middle of the camp. Somewhere in its path, a small dog lays on the dirty road, looking into the black sky with wide-open frozen eyes which will never close again.

Both Raven and Meneasha are also frozen with fear as the rider is revealed, and the Raven caws no more.

Grimacing as noone moves towards the rider to greet it, Bor takes a deep breath and slowly walks towards Gothmog. As he gets to within earshot, he drops to one knee and bows his head. Taking a moment to regain his composure, where staring at the ground seems to help, he finally says "How may we be in your service my lord?" His voice cracks and loses power towards the end of his sentence.

Zhamik has arrived.

A feeling of hopelessness - a picture of darkened caverns of no return, of absence of anything that is light and good pervades the atmosphere and the Arban seems to shrink back further as her mind is crowded with swirling waking-dreams of the undead. Her eyes close of themselves and her lips move in prayer as she desperately rubs her spider tattoo. Albolar opens them again to see Bor approach and make obeisance to the hideious creature on horseback and she immediately drops to one knee as well.

Silouetted against the campfires and the smoke clouds glowing from the fires below, the black rider gains a more definitive shape. On his head is a great horned helm, the flowing black robes conceal his body and merge into the shadows and darkness of the night without a clearly discernable edge. The hand holding the reigns is gloved in black chain-mail glove.

The terrible shape distorts and shivers, then the head turns toward Bor, and the black helm lowers slightly, its opening now stares at the man. The opening of the helm, but not the face which it should reveal: there is nothing behing the visor, only a void which no light can leave. "I need your priest", the voice hisses, only partly coming through your ears, for it echoes directly in your mind as well.

The Merchant moves not, frozen into place, although he does give an involentary shudder.

Digesting what is said to him for a moment, Bor nods his bowed head, and without standing, he turns his head sideways to shout at noone in particular, "Send a messenger to the Palace that the presence of the High Priest, The King, is requested by Mordor!"

As the command is heard, it seems as if a dozen or more nikud jump up to run out of camp, preferring to deliver a summons to the king, who is likely sleeping, than remain in the camp.

The camp begins to awaken with all the racket, though those that come out from their yurts soon wish they had remained asleep and left to their nightmares.

The black rider continues in his hoarse, hissing voice, which seems to be coming from a great distance, and yet every word stabs into the ears of the listener, "There are rituals which must be done."
The black horse stands still, motionless, and only its mad bloodshot eyes dart from side to side, revealing that, trained as it may be to bear its load, it too is not immune to the terror emanating from the rider.

Bor nods again in response, though he does not stop nodding for quiet some time. When he finally does speak, he says "Shall I guide you to the spire? Or gather some livestock?"

Albolar remains on one knee, her frightened gaze fixed on the ground and her skin trembling from the bone chilling cold. Behind her she can hear her horse blowing nervously, but she makes no move to get up lest she be noticed. The word rituals penetrates her consciousness though, and she gives and involuntary grimace knowing this means blood will be flowing on the altar shortly.

"There will be no need of your cattle", comes a reply. The dark robes billow, then come crashing down from the saddle like a black waterfall, a cascade of flowing tar. When the swirling darkness regains its shape, the black rider stands on the ground, looking down at the men kneeling before him, "The ritual must be done in a place of power, by the priest who speaks the language of the Eye", the voice appears somewhat more bearable now, and the outline of the black robes no longer flows smoothly into the night, as if the visitor pulled the darkest black into himself, and some of the gripping cold and terror are lifted with it. "And apprentices will be required", he adds, and the voice sounds even colder than before.

Light pours in from the East, making its way over the mountains to come down upon the lands of Rhun.

Bor stands and gives a final bow, saying "I shall go gather your... apprentices now my lord.. How many do you need?"

"Nine will be needed", responds Gothmog. "One for every rune". Why there must be a new apprentice to handle each rune is left unanswered, although the cold voice which intones the words sounds like death itself.

From the direction of the city gates comes the sound of many men, running in sync. As one, they burst into the camp, halting immediately. All but one fall prostrate, faces in the dirt. The one exception with great effort and deliberation drops to one knee, his head bowed. The crown atop his head is evident, even in the darkness, as the mithril catches every glimmer of light and throws it back into the night. "My Lord." The baritone voice is harsh and hoarse, the words coming slowly and with great effort. "You called for me."

From her bowed position on the ground the frigid voice of Gothmog seems to insert itself into her very being and Albolar moves not a muscle as Bor and Gothmog discuss the details of the ritual, some inner sense makes her suspect that the nine apprentices may be visiting the darkness of no return at the conclusion of the ritual.
The arrival of the king brings her head up with a start.

The black helm turns to the king. There is no face in its opening, only the darkness, but a flicker of red glow appears for a moment, like two embers where the eyes should be, as Gothmog studies the man. Finally, the wraith nods his head, and when it's raised, the embers are gone, only the dark void remains. In a few flowing steps he covers the distance separating him from the kneeling king. "A ritual must be done for this". From the dark shape separates a large object, shadows almost seem to drip from it, as if being held by the wraith coated it in darkness like one might coat metal in oil. It is revealed to be a large tower shield, almost jet-black as well, and of finest workmanship. Something about the shield seems... unfinished, somehow. There is a clearly marked empty space in the center, something might go there later, and nine flat spots are polished but also otherwise empty, each about the size of the palm, they form a oval along the edge. The shield does not yet have the aura of cold evil which emanates from Gothmog's other armor. "The shield must be imbued", notes the wraith and holds it out to the King and High Priest.

Albolar dares to raise her eyes to look at the mighty shield now, but the black void behind the helm of the one who holds it makes her quake anew and she quickly drops her gaze.

Without raising his head to meet the wraith's eyes, Zhamik reaches for the shield. Then he hesitates. "My Lord." He clears his throat, and swallows hard. "Your People are simple, and unlearned in the ways of the highest rituals. They have annointed their King to be their High Priest, as no other worthy enough to hold that most revered position could be found. He... is still learning the ways of the Dark Lord, slowly reading through the ancient scrolls." His hands have not touched the shield, though he does not shrink back from it.

Upon the king's arrival, Bor turns and says "I will go go and gather your apprentices..." to Gothmog. Bor bow's in the Kings direction and looks around the camp for suitable apprentices...

Amarsanaa breathes steadily his breath billowing in white puffs as he exhales. Listening to the exchange between Gothmog and his King, he remains in a deep bow upon the ground, himself not rising nor looking up anymore. The icy cold of the ground seems to be beginning to bother his hands, for his fingers begin to slowly clench and unclench, a sign of trying to ward off the approaching numbness.

"Your apprentices have all that the ritual will require from them", immediately retorts the wraith. Then, he holds one hand forward, and a shadow of it stretches out, falls onto the King. The voice changes, words suddenly stab like poisoned daggers, "As for the High Priest...", the gloved hand opens, and a scroll unrolls between its fingers, "read this ritual, have enough apprentices to inscribe the nine runes, and you may yet live to keep reading your ancient scrolls". The nine runes glow faintly on the parchment, and there are other writings on it, in the language of the Eye, apparently to be read while the runes are inscirbed.

Walking through the camp, Bor gathers three nikuds and three slaves, Bor orders them to bow before the Nazgul and wait for his commands... They obey, though very reluctantly. Bor heads off to a different part of camp to find more.. expendables.

The dreadful voice of Gothmog changes timbre again, and the Arban shrinks within herself at the thinly veiled menace in the wraith's words. Every joint in Albolar's body seems made of stone.

Coming back across from a different part of the camp with two more slaves, Bor gazes across the camp. His eyes stay on Albolar and her companion for several moments, a grim smile on his face, though he passes by her and grabs a nikud standing near her, shoving him towards Gothmog. Turning towards Gothmog, and keeping his distance, Bor says "that makes nine my lord." just barely loud enough to be heard.

The helmeted head of the wraith turns to glance at the apprentices brought befor him. The dark void stares at each one in turn, and each is compelled to stare back into the void. They remain still even after the wraith turns away and the shadow passes them.

Albolar's heart hammers in her chest as Bor moves in her direction and she almost collapses weakly on the ground as he passes her by and chooses another for the ritual.

The nine "apprentices" Bor gathered to serve the dark rider all walk up Gothmog as commanded and immediately fall to the ground, prostrate and in a low bow. Several spots of wetness can be seen on the pants of these apprentices and around the floor where they lay. The mixture of both genders now shares an unified fate and terror.

A whisper of a sigh escapes the man as his eyes lift to gaze upon the scroll. "Yes, my Lord." Zhamik swallows hard, squinting at the runes. "We... we are a simple people, my Lord, most of us unlearned in the High Speech. Might we have this night to decipher the ritual? And another night to inscribe the runes?"

The glowing embers are back under the dark helm, and the black figure appears to study the King. His hand still holds the ritual scroll, and the runes on it glow stronger. A casual glance is enough to capture the eye on them, make one look longer, longer... "You wish to be left alone with the scroll?" If the voice of the wraith is capable of showing an emotion, there might be a sign of it here, surprise or curiosity, perhaps.

Narrowing his eyes at the king's words, Bor whispers to himself "They wouldn't...." Looking around the camp and not finding any priests, he turns to Albolar again and says "Go fetch another priest... The higher ranked the better. Qucikly"

Zhamik's one eye stares unblinking at the runes for a moment. Then the King shakes his head, managing to pluck his gaze from them. "Alone with the runes, no." The words are hurried, rushed together. "It will take us... time... to discipher the scroll." As Bor speaks, Zhamik inclines his head in that direction. "The Lady Naiara." Relief fills his voice. "A Haradrim, my Lord. A far more learned people. May we send for her?"

Amarsanaa raises his head a bit as they converse though it lowers once more to the ground, his services seeming not to be needed. Turning his head slightly to the side he peers at teh Arban Albolar, before his gaze returns to the ground.

The interchange between the King and the Black Rider makes Albolar quake and she almost misses Bor's request. She whispers back fearfully, "Right away Mingghan and pushes herself off from her knee. Almost falling because her limb is now numb, she backs away slowly and then turns and sprints into the city to the Spire in search of a priest.
Albolar leaves the safety of the camp behind.
Albolar has left.

Albolar has arrived.
Naiara has arrived.

As the minutes pass after Albolar leaves to fetch another priest, Bor breaks the silence with a question "Is this all you need My lord? Nine apprentices and someone to read the scroll?"

"My time is short, Priest", answers the wraith, "the runes must be inscribed quickly, to prepare the shield for the final ritual. If the Haradrim priest is here, call for her. If she is in Umbar, there is no time". Shadow deepens around the King, "Then *you* will read it".

Zhamik sends a steely glance Bor's way, then lowers his head as the Nazgul speaks once again. "She is here, our guest in Riavod, my Lord. And with time, we could indeed read the scroll." His jaw tightens and lifts every so slightly. "But we would make certain that our Lord's time is never wasted."

It takes some time before Albolar comes puffing back to camp glancing anxiously behind her, willing the Haradrim Priestess to hurry. As she approaches the prostrate group she salutes and drips once more to one knee, "The Lady Naiara is coming Mingghan.

Indeed, the Haradrim Priestess is not in Umbar this night -- not even close. Still within Riavod, despite the departure of the other Haradrim, Naiara slips into the area very soon on Albolar's heels. "I am summoned," she murmurs tonelessly.

Gothmog acknowledges Bor and his words, if not right away, "That, and the place of power. It will be enough, if... ", the wraith turns to the King, and stabs forward with a finger. A ray of darkness reaches to the man, " ... if the priest does not stutter. Otherwise, a .. new apprentice will be needed". Whether a new priest will be needed as well, the wraith does not say.

Bor bows his head and says "I am sorry my lord, I do not understand what you mean by a place of power. This camp is a symbol of our strength, our tool for bringing destruction to our enemies... Does that qualify? Or do you require that we move this to the Black Spire, where other rituals and sacrafices to the eye are typically held?"

The scroll in Gothmog's hand curls, uncurls, and turns so the runes now glow in the face of the new priest. There are nine runes on the scroll, and they draw the eye toward them, but other writings are on the scroll below each rune, the text for the actual ritual. "Can *you* conduct this ritual, priestess?" The black helm slowly turns toward Naiara, and the void, the dark space under the helm, where the face should be but only nothing is, is facing the priestess.

"<Morbeth> If you but tell me thy desire, Wraithlord," Naiara lifts her chin a notch, then lets it drop into a wordless nod. Her hands disappear into the ends of her sleeves, as she assumes a stance of listening.

The guttural sounds of Black Speech send a noticeable quiver through the prostrate forms on the ground.

Apparently satisfied with what he has heard, or percieved by other means, for it is said that one of his kind can see directly into the mortal mind, so all thoughts and plans are laid bare before him, the wraith lets the scroll curl up and disappear in his gloved hand. The other hand still holds the tower shield, and the nine polished circles where the runes are to be inscribed stand out with their silverly glow against the black metal of the shield. "<Morbeth> Then lead the apprentices to the Spire, where the power of of the Eye is felt the most. There shall the runes be inscribed".

Utterly clueless of what is being said, Bor takes a few steps back, giving a thankful nod to Naiara as she takes over the ceremony. Bor somehow manages to sweat in this blistering cold, the wind pushing the beads of sweat across his face in unnatural patterns.

Folding herself in half, the Haradrim priestess completes a bow for the nazgul, switching to a more common tongue for the benefit of the nine apprentices she's to lead. "As is thy wish, so is my command," she intones. "To the Black Spire..."

Trying to control her labored breathing, Albolar risks a glance up at the scroll just before it rolls back up seeming to have its own will.

His interest sparked by the few words her heard of Morbeth, Amarsanna still bows upon the ground, waiting for the signal to move to the Spire before he rises to head that way.

Gothmog makes a step forward, and, suddenly, the nine apprentices repeat this movement, all walking forward like one, like puppets whose arms and legs are controlled by the wraith. "Lead me to the Spire", comes out the hiss, directed at everyone and noone in particular.

As the words are spoken, the nine apprentices stand and start their trek to the spire. They look for routes of escape, but find none when Bor orders over two dozen soldiers to escort them. Together, in a mass prosession, they make their way to the black spire.

Even as Naiara speaks, Zhamik rises to his feet and wordlessly turns back toward the City. "The Black Spire, the place of power." His men, until now lying like dead men, struggle to their feet as their king makes his way through them. As one, they swarm around him, somehow still cognizant of their duty though performing it mechanically.

Giving a grunt of ache as Amarsanna pushes himself up from the ground, his eyes survey the camp briefly before he too begins walking back to the Spire, a small ache in his knee making him limp slighty. His hands rub briskly together, warming his knuckles and joints as he softly mutters under his breath.

OOC: Entire group moves to the Black Spire and arrive to...
Hall of Worship
You are in a vast circular chamber, with a high domed ceiling. The walls seem to be constructed of some black, concrete-like material; they are matte and do not seem to reflect any light. Surrounding the center of the chamber are rows of benches which descend in the style of an arena to the raised dais in the center. On the dais sits a squat altar, an ugly black piece of stone.
A foul reek permeates the room's walls and furnishings. The odor becomes increasing apparent the closer one gets to the altar. The altar itself has been polished to a sheen, all rough edges smoothed. Above the altar, the high dome ceiling has at its zenith a hole, blackened from the smoke of many a sacrifice.


The procession ends in the hall of Worsh, and the nine apprenices once again prostrate themselves before Gothmog, waiting for their eventual fate, whatever it may be.

The Haradrim priestess, likewise, awaits, hands again folded within her sleeves.

Bor stands with several armed guards, and sinyews, looking over the apprentices, letting them know the price of disobedience.

Albolar stands at the ready with the Mingghan, her hand on her scimitar.

Amarsanaa reaches the Hall of Worship, and moves to stand among a few milling Speakers behind Gothmog. Standing erect his eyes survey the hall with a pleased look on his face..perhaps wishing this many would show for morning ritual.

Zhamik takes his place at the head of the procession, the Lady Naiara at his right side, the nine apprentices to his left. His guards remain at the doors to the Hall.

Gothmog slowly walks up to the altar, and lowers the shield on the cold floor before it. The heavy metal shield rattles against the stone floor. The nine polished circles glow again, even stronger now when the power of the dark altar is so close. The scroll appears in his hand again, and he holds it out to Naiara, "Bring forth the apprentice for the first rune"

Bor looks to Albolar and sighs, saying quietly "He mentioned that more apprentices will be needed if the priestess errs... We failed to bring any more but these nine... Take account of the troops present and keep in mind which ones would make good... apprentices should that error occur..."

Naiara suppresses a shudder as she reaches for the shield, her face remaining as impassive as possible, under the circumstances. Feeling the icy steel within her hands, she half-turns to face the closest of the apprentices, matching her tone with the feel of the shield in her grasp. "Step forth, and accept thy task, apprentice."

Seeing noone of them move, Bor calls out "You, on the far left... Go first."

The slave slowly stands, tears streaming down his face, legs shaking so bad they can barely keep his weight. The first apprentice walks up to the shield and awaits instructions.

Albolar's eyes wander over the soldiers gathered around on guard, looking for any weakness. "It shall be as you say Mingghan," she says in a low voice inclining her head.

The wraith's finger traces out the rune on the parchment, and it glows brighter, with scattered icy glitter, like it is written in diamonds. The glitter reflects in the eyes of the apprentice, and, just for a second, it appears that his eyes shine with inner glow in response, even his skin seems to glitter... Then his face just becomes pale, and the eyes colorless. Perhaps that is all it was. But the wraith holds the scroll out to the priestess, apparently not concerned any more with showing the rune to the apprentice who will inscribe it. "Begin the ritual for the first rune, dedicate this soul to the Eye", commands the Wraith. "Then the rune shall be inscribed".

Out of nowhere, or may be from the black slieve of the robes, into the gloved hand slips a thin silverly blade. It looks like a small dagger, only there is no handle, and the sharp edges leave no place to grab the blade safely. Gothmog points to the polished circle at the top of the shield, then drops the blade on the floor in front of the apprentice. It rings coldly as it hits the stone.

The slave looks at the blade for a while before reaching down and pickin it up. Biting his lip, he positions himself over the circule where the rune is to go and waits for the command to begin etching. The blade, sharper than what he expected, already cuts into his hand, leaving a drop of blood trickling to its tip in anticipation of contact with the shield.

Zhamik watches the proceedings in silence.

Naiara watches the slow trickle of blood, a small nod of satisfaction granted the apprentice. She looks to the scroll, her eyes twitching across the page before she speaks aloud the words: "<Morbeth> Nine sigils the shield shall bear, carved in tribute and in pain. The first, I call forth, and one by one, so shall it be done." She pauses, lifting her eyes to the man standing just before her, and speaks in a lower tone, 'The Eye accepts thy tribute, apprentice, thy soul. Inscribe the rune, to seal thy dedication.'

The slave takes a deep breath and begins to insribe onto the shield the shape he was shown earlier. The trickle of blood turns into a steady stream as the blade cuts deeper into his hands. Numb to the pain by the terror coursing through his body, he does as he is told.

Zhamik moistens his lips, then presses them in a tight line. His one eye never strays from the Apprentice whose Rune is now to be inscribed.

Albolar watches the proceedings with a bowed head but her eyes never leave the two she has selected should the priestess make a mistake. One of them catches her and then quickly looks forward again.

Amarsanaa watches with more interests harboring in his eyes than anything. Again a few small words flow to his ear in Morbeth, though the true words of it going unknown. Idly looking around the hall, his attention once more turns back to the apprentice as he begins inscribing.

Bor stands in the rear, watching over the nine apprentices he chose intently.

Gothmog stands behind the apprentice as he works. The outline of the rune appears quickly in the circle under the tip of the blade, now red with blood. The red trail left by the tip on the shield quickly fades, as the metal appears to absorb the blood, leaving the etched darkened lines behind. Apprentice works slower and slower, perhaps his blood is not the only thing being absorbed, sapped away to grant the rune its dark power. The rune is almost finished, but the man barely can hold his head up to look at his work. The wraith glances back at the man who chose the apprentices, "Make sure the others are strong enough to finish their work,". He does not elaborate on the alternative.

Bor freezes as he is spoken too. Glancing over his current choices, most of whom are strong in body, but not in mind, he nods and takes a deep breath, not knowing what the nazgul means by "strong,"

Albolar catches her Bor's worried demeanor and prepares for action in case she is needed by freeing her scimitar in its scabbard.

The slave's body slumps and begins to lean to to side as he is still carving. As his hands stop etching, Bor quickly blurts "Finish it or your sons, daughters, whatever family you have will join you in your fate!" The man etches on, finally engraving the entire image that was burned into his mind. As he does so, he falls to the ground, pale and barely breathing.

The rune is completed, and the apprentice topples like a felled tree. Nonplussed, the Haradrim priestess steps over him, taking the shield to the second in line and intoning the next line of the ritual. As with the first, she tells him when to start carving his rune. And, also like the first, he finishes his rune and falls to the ground.
Down the line, Naiara moves steadily, as one by one the apprentices accept their doomed fate.

Zhamik continues to stare straight ahead as the Apprentice's life drips into the rune he is inscribing. His chin lifts, and the one eye glitters as the man succeeds in engraving the image. And as man after man succeeds, fierce pride shines on the King's face. "<Logathig> A true Easterling is strong of flesh and of spirit," he comments quietly in the tongue of his People.

The latter apprentices did not share the strength of the first however, as, when they fell, they were just as pale, and as the last rune completed, they fell not into sleep, or something like it, but forever. Their bodies not having even the energy to breath.

The soldiers in the room stiffen noticeably with pride as their King speaks.

Gothmog watches as, one by one, the polishes circles on the shield acquire their runes. Even those uninitiated in the arcane should feel by now that the ritual is working: the surface of the shield seems even darker than before, it's black beyond just the dark metal now, like a doorway into nothingness. Icy chill spreads around it, the same cold that emanates from the wraith's other armor.

As the final rune is inscribed, of the nine apprentices, only one managed to stay concious, A slave. Four perished in the effort, and fourt are in a deep sleep, perhaps never to return. Bor smiles as he looks at the slave that managed to stay awake, saying "Consider yourself free..."

As the last apprentice finishes his job, Gothmog picks the shield from his numb hands. He holds it to the altar, looking at it at an angle from one side, than the other. Without as much as acknowledging the apprentices or their fate, he turns to the priestess, "You are free now. The ritual is concluded".